No Final Decision On Springfield’s Ward 2 Race

Jul 17, 2019

After months of recounts and appeals, the decision of who should represent Springfield’s Ward 2 landed at the city council Tuesday. But council members could not reach agreement between Ald. Gail Simpson or Willie “Shawn” Gregory.

Much of the debate revolved around small initials election judges need to make on every ballot. On two contested ballots for Gregory – a judge had signed it, just not on the line where she was supposed to.

Retired Judge John Mehlick, who acted as hearing officer, recommended not counting them.

“I’m of the opinion that when you train your election judges and the state board of elections says train your election judges to put their initials in that spot, that’s where they should go,” he told the council. “Otherwise you’re opening the door for all kinds of problems.”

Shawn Gregory (far left) and Ald. Gail Simpson (far right) are still awaiting a final decision on who will serve as Ward 2 representative. The four candidates who competed in the April election debated a forum in March. From left Shawn Gregory, former Ald. Herman Senor, Tom Shafer, and Simpson.
Credit Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

Gregory’s lawyer – and a few aldermen seemed to agree – argued that since the election judge did in fact sign the ballots, they should be counted. With the two votes, Gregory would have enough votes to get the seat.

Earlier this month, Mehlick recommended Simpson, who has been serving on the council since May, should be declared the winner by 0.361 of a vote (PDF).

Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath, Ward 4 Ald. John Fulgenzi, Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor, Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso and Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer agreed Simpson should be declared the winner.

Three council members – Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley and Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan – and Mayor Jim Langfelder voted against Mehlick’s recommendation.

Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turned did not participate after Simpson’s attorney asked her to recuse herself.

Turner is chair of the Sangamon County Democrats, which endorsed Gregory. She said she agreed because she felt it might help others trust the process.

“There is so much mistrust and innuendo and those kinds of the things swirling around this decision that I felt that if me recusing myself will assist in people believing the decision was fair,” she told NPR Illinois after the meeting.

The city council will take up the discussion again Thursday night at 5 p.m.

Two more candidates ran for the seat, including former Ald. Herman Senor and Tom Shafer, a gun rights acvitist. 

This story will be updated.